Growing consumer sophistication plus evolving societal behaviours have collided with technology to transform much of this country's commercial and industrial property market.

These changes are driving the growth of recreational and leisure activity-based business tenancies, which are snapping up floorspace right around the country.

The changes date back to the 1970s and 80s, with the emergence of gaming arcades — 'spacie parlours' as they were known — usually retail premises of up to 120m, found predominantly in large town and both city suburban and central business district locations.

Soon after, 10-pin bowling alleys became more prevalent in New Zealand. Alleys were generally found in suburban locations because of the larger floorplate required to sustain operations. It was common to find them about 1000-1400sq m from cinema complexes and shopping malls.

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Then came indoor pre-school play centres crammed full of colourful ball-pits, climbing frames, and bouncy castles.

However, Bayleys Real Estate national director commercial and industrial, Ryan Johnson, believes changes in parenting since around the turn of the millennium plus greater greater recreational choices, have driven growth in the leisure and recreational business sector of the property market.

Flip Out is New Zealand's largest indoor trampoline park operator. Photo / Supplied
Flip Out is New Zealand's largest indoor trampoline park operator. Photo / Supplied

"The evolution has been more in recreational or entertainment facilities than sporting amenities. More the sort of venue you'd take a group of youngsters for a birthday celebration, for example, or when it's raining outside and the kids are fizzing with energy but you can't kick a ball around or go for a bike ride," Johnson point out.

"Within the leisure and recreation category though, we have also noted an increase in the number of sites tenanted by businesses whose target market is teenagers and adults — as the diversity of attractions within the sector has grown to encompass both physical and mental activities beyond the scope of children."

Among the adrenalin-fuelled activities now leasing industrial and commercial premises are trampoline parks, laser-strike battle-zones, indoor mini-golf courses, escape rooms where participants must think laterally and solve clues to enable their exit, and go-cart race tracks.

"For the more physical side of the leisure and recreational market, their types of business activity tend to suit high-stud industrial warehousing or former manufacturing premises, generally located in cities' light industrial precincts," Johnson says.

Holidays, weekends

"Trampoline parks, laser strike and paintball battle zones, children's play centres, and go-carting track venues generally track their busiest periods on weekends and during school holidays when children need time-consuming activities to entertain them.

"Weekends are generally the quietest trading periods for many of the adjoining industrial businesses, which works perfectly for overflow parking. So, from this perspective, leisure and entertainment business neighbours generally make good neighbours, although parking is obviously at a premium during the holiday breaks.

"Many of these business types are hard-wearing on their premises, and again, this suits the structural nature and materials construction of a starkly constructed former warehouse or manufacturing plant."

Johnson says the floor space generally required — and associated per-square-metre leasing rates — means such businesses will generally be uneconomic to operate within retail-specific malls and town centre/high street locations.

"Escape rooms are the exception, as by their very nature, they are one room of around a 25-40sq m floor plate — equating to two or three standard sized offices. With just the need for bathroom amenities, and a front office reception area, it's possible to accommodate two or three different themed escape rooms in an office space of say 100 to 140 square metres," he says.

Rotorua-based indoor activities venue Motion Entertainment has gone to the next level with its commercial floor plate — combining many of these entertainment and leisure attractions under one roof, and with the inclusion of a fully licensed food and beverage entity sustained by a commercial kitchen and bar facilities. Now billed as New Zealand's largest all-weather entertainment centre, purpose-built Motion's size is comparable to a small suburban shopping mall or bulk retail premise normally associated with brands such as Mega Mitre 10, Bunnings or The Warehouse.

As leisure and recreation-based enterprises tend to be 'destinations' rather than businesses reliant on 'passing trade', they can comfortably operate from side street, back street and 'off the beaten pedestrian track' locations.

Trampoline parks

Indoor trampolining operations have very specific property requirements for their tenancies within large industrial warehousing or factory locations. They need large floorplans, and stud heights of at least 8.5m.

While the first generation of trampoline parks was comprised mainly of open jump mats, trampoline parks now embrace other recreational challenges like ninja courses, foam pits, rope courses and basketball slam dunk courts. Ancillary food and beverage amenities are standard too.

The interior of a Flip Out branch. Photo / Supplied
The interior of a Flip Out branch. Photo / Supplied

Flip Out is New Zealand's largest indoor trampoline park operator with eight locations throughout the country — in Christchurch, Hastings, Nelson, Tauranga, Timaru, Palmerston North, Whangarei and Wellington.

In Hastings for example, the Flip Out operation occupies a 1950s/60s styled 1640sq m saw-toothed roof building with access to 42 car parks in an industrial part of the city.

Fellow trampoline park operator Jump has three sites — two in Auckland and one in Hamilton. In Auckland, the brand was first established in an East Tamaki site within a 1000sq m warehouse. Now its North Shore venue operates out of a 2500sq m warehouse with a 10.5m stud height.

Escape rooms

Escape rooms offer a physical and mental adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy within the confines of a single room ranging in size from about 25sq m, up to 40sq m. Players are given a set time limit to solve a mystery, and games are set in a variety of fictional, themed locations, such as prison cells, dungeons and space stations.

They are believed to have first emerged in Tokyo around 2007 and since then, the industry has escalated to an estimated 2800 escape rooms worldwide.

Internationally, escape rooms tend to be found in overlooked alleyways, derelict warehouses and tucked away in under-performing shopping malls, while in New Zealand, they tend to be located within CBD buildings to capture the corporate teambuilding market, locals, and tourists.

In the basement of a Wellington CBD office building in Johnson Street, Escape Mate operates an escape room business in 60sq m of space — which includes props such as a stainless-steel bank vault door from the 1930s.

Virtual gamers

Immersive virtual reality entertainment allows participants to navigate their way around a digital world using a headset and sensor-fitted hand controllers.

The spatial requirements of virtual reality operations are relatively straightforward. When wearing scenario-creating helmet-like headsets, players are unmindful of their actual physical surroundings. Virtual reality operators do have the requirement being located in areas with high speed fibre internet connectivity to support the on-line games played by participants.

Like other peers in the leisure/recreational entertainment and experiential field, virtual reality operations need good car parking, bathroom facilities, gear storage locker space for players' personal items, kitchen amenities for self-catering groups, and a communal lounge area for socialising while waiting to play on the equipment or at the conclusion of the event.

As physical impact on floorboards is minimal, space on first and second floor level sites is suitable for conversion into virtual reality gaming premises.

However, with some degree of physical movement involved in the activity, virtual reality tenancies can require the installation of air conditioning systems to maintain player comfort at around 21 – 22 degrees Celsius.